Imam Nuri Muhammad and other members of the Muslim community in Belize, as well as non-Muslim citizens, have organized a protest rally for Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Battlefield Park, Belize City, to decry “the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians, including children,” who have become needless casualties in the ongoing dispute between the Hamas military group and the Israelis which has once more erupted into catastrophic violence in Gaza.
Although international news reports say that the warring parties struck a 72-hour ceasefire accord today, Muhammad told us that they are still proceeding with protest plans because they are not sure that the ceasefire will hold.
He told Amandala that the Muslim community had gathered over the last month for fasting, and just around that time the conflict escalated. They decided about two weeks ago that they just could not sit back and say nothing.
“The prophet Muhammad [speaking of the founder of the faith] has said that when you see a wrong, you should do something about it with your hands, some physical action to remove that wrong or to correct that wrong. But if you are not in a position to use your hands, then you should speak out against it… Thirdly, if you cannot do either of these two, then you should at least take that wrong in your heart or in your conscience,” Muhammad said.
He said that they realize that they cannot do anything with their hands to change what is going on, so they have two other options: “Sit back and say I hate to see killings every night on TV or at least raise our voices, raise our protest to say we cannot countenance this. This is wrong,” Muhammad said.
He said that they are moving to protest “not only because we are Muslims and those persons over there are Muslims. We are motivated by a human common spirit to say that this is going beyond the rules of war.”
He said that if it were a matter of combat between the Hamas and Israelis soldiers, they would have nothing to say, as that’s war; however, he stressed that what has transpired is “clearly beyond international laws,” speaking of the “bombardment of an area densely populated, that is resulting in escalation of civilian casualties.”
The last figure was close to 1,700 casualties and more than 1,500 were civilian casualties, with over 400 being children, he pointed out.
“This is not, to our minds, to be accepted,” said Muhammad, adding that international bodies and people all over the world have been saying to the Israelis and the US that this is intolerable.
Why the US? Muhammad said that the US is a major power in the world and perhaps the greatest ally of Israel, and it should have the greatest influence in constraining the Israelis.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that, “Hamas and other Palestinian groups accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal presented in Cairo on Monday, three days after a similar truce collapsed in its first hours.”
Israel’s military said Monday it had completed the core mission of its Gaza offensive — destroying more than 30 cross-border tunnels Hamas had used to stage attacks on the Jewish state, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would keep up the military operation until militants from Gaza stop firing rockets, the Wall Street Journal added.
Muhammad said that the organizers of Wednesday’s protest are trying to make sure that people understand that they are not getting into a religious argument.
“We don’t want to get caught up in that,” he said.
He said that Belize could very well see a similar scenario if Guatemala were to take on a belligerent military posture similar to Israel’s, occupying a portion of Belize from which it then proceeds to launch attacks against the country.
Muhammad said that there are also Christians who are part of the organizing group, and although the protest began within the Muslim community, non-Muslims have also joined in the cause.
We told Muhammad that there would likely be questions over why the group is choosing to highlight the killings so far away when there continues to be a spate of senseless killings right here in Belize — but no protests against those. He told us that the sentiment had already been expressed via Facebook, but told us that he has always stood up for such issues, and indeed, in Wednesday’s protests, there will also be calls to stop the killings here in Belize.
“It is not an either or situation,” he said.
He invites persons wishing to participate in the protest to bring their placards, but added that some placards will also be available for those who come with none.
Wednesday’s protest entails a rally at the park but no protest march, unless the group decides after their planning meeting this evening to take to the streets.